March 15, 2011

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite

My column for this week, appearing in the Warrick Courier, the Logansport Pharos-
Tribune, the Columbia City Post and Mail, and the Plymouth Pilot-News.

By the time this column is published, I will have returned from my first real vacation in three years. Yes, it is true. While I have been out of state to deposit or retrieve our son at college, that doesn’t count.
Spending hours carrying dirty clothes and dormitory refuse to and from a rented van, parked illegally among hundreds of other vans on the hottest day of either May or August is not my kind of rest and relaxation.
I am excited that we are taking a vacation. When we get there, I will be delighted. When we get home, I will be delighted that we went.
However, both my husband and I experience the same disconcerting phenomenon before we go anywhere. In the days right before we go, neither of us wants to leave the house. Why?
Everything regarding travel is too complicated. First, there’s our cat. In cat years he is elderly. He lost his beloved sister a year ago, and now becomes vocally agitated if one of us leaves. If we visit family for a weekend, a good friend feeds and waters him, and talks to him while he growls at her from under the bed. Yes, this is a good friend.
Then there is our medicine. Heaven forbid a prescription comes due while we are gone, as the gods of Insurance won’t allow purchase one day before Day 31.
And flying. You must condense items needed into a suitcase the size of a grocery bag, or pay the ungodly fee. If you pay for an extra bag, you must take a carry-on anyway with medicine and basic supplies in case the airline loses your luggage. (I’m about one for one on O’Hare. Let’s just say the people at the Terminal G lost luggage stand know my first name.)
In your carry-on, you can only take three ounces of liquid. If you wear contacts, this is barely enough to wet a grasshopper’s lenses. So one of the first things you do on vacation is hunt down a drug store. The only bottle of contact solution available will be too big to take on the return trip, and you will end up throwing it away.
As a small girl I flew to Florida with my mother to visit my grandparents in Clearwater. We both wore dresses as if we were going to Easter Sunday services, not flying from Fort Wayne Baer Field. In the 1960s the servers were called “stewardesses” and were women wearing tidy, tailored uniforms, square hats, and white gloves. They served us a hot meal, complete with silverware. I always wondered what the people in first class ate, because our entrĂ©e was very good for coach.
Today we fly as if we are cattle in a chute. Most people don’t want to pay the excess luggage fee, so coach is stuffed with bags that stretch to the legal limit of fifty pounds. Beware the moment after the plane lands, and the storage bins pop open. Nothing like getting beaned in the head with a bright blue carry-on bag.
All the inconveniences and fears listed above aren’t exactly new, but this trip we struggle with something new. As if hotels weren’t expensive enough, now there may be a hidden cost: bedbugs. When I was a little girl, my mother used to say sometimes, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Now apparently this is a big problem. My cousin, who travels all over the world, told me to put my luggage in the bathtub. Apparently the little critters don’t like porcelain. My suitcase isn’t what I’m worried about the most.

© 2011 Amy McVay Abbott is an Indiana writer. Her column, The Raven Lunatic, appears in several Indiana newspapers. She likes to hear from readers at